Why the ‘health of the nation’ is
The casualty toll from Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)
is quite staggering and the state is, very rightly, taking some
relevant measures to put things right, to the best of its
ability. One of these is the setting-up of rehabilitation
centres for alcohol and tobacco addicts in each district. We
urge the state to ensure the effectiveness of this scheme in
view of the alarming human costs of ill-health.
Some of the information provided by the health authorities
points to a steep decline in the ‘health of the nation’. For
instance, it is estimated that 350 Lankans die daily from NCDs;
150 of these are accounted for by heart attacks. Forty to fifty
persons die from strokes and diabetes, while high blood
pressure, cancer and kidney disease claim 150 more lives daily.
For a comparatively small population, this is a worrisome toll
and it stands to reason that the state as well as the public
need to be bothered.
As the health authorities have rightly pointed out, alcohol
and tobacco abuse are predominant factors in the alarming
deterioration in the quality of health of sections of the
people, but what should be equally thought-provoking is that
some of these NCDs are fast catching on even among the rural
people. While years ago, rural dwellers were prone to dismiss
diseases, such as, diabetes as being the preserve of townsmen
and of the rich, this is no longer true. NCDs are not only more
prolific, they are also cutting across social and class
barriers. Diabetics, for example, are quite common even among
our provincial dwellers.
The average villager, it is true, is not prone to a sedentary
life but could not be expected to be constantly careful about
the quality of the food he consumes. Fast food, for instance, is
increasingly popular in most parts of the country and could no
longer be considered an exclusively urban phenomenon. Likewise,
fizzy drinks are no longer the preserve of the urban dweller and
the so-called social elite.
Accordingly, the time’s ripe to educate the public
extensively on the dos and don’ts with regard to healthy eating.
This is something the state needs to undertake in a major way in
collaboration with the mass media. To the extent possible, the
public should be weaned away from wheat flour-based products
which are an ideal avenue, so to speak, for the contraction of
Now that there is an abundance of paddy in the country, the
possibilities must be increasingly explored of turning out
rice-based products which easily appeal to local tastes and
preferences. Our food research institutions need to put their
minds to this task sooner rather than later.
However, another factor that needs to be contented with in
regard to improving the health of the people is the ‘high
pressure’ lifestyles that people in increasing numbers are
compelled to adopt.
This is particularly true of the younger segment of our
population and we need to dwell awhile on the disclosure by some
medical authorities that one in four persons are prone to
contract cancers of one kind or another. This is certainly
bound-up with the fact that more and more people are compelled
by their financial and other circumstances to not only work
increasingly harder and longer hours at a desk but to do so in a
‘high pressure’ atmosphere. This is a most unfortunate trend and
it would be advisable for the health authorities to impress on
the public the need to take some time off work and engage in
physical exercises which are, certainly, a restorer of good
Heart ailments, like cancer, are the product of fretful, long
hours of work, bereft of relaxation, and we would be only
stating the obvious by saying that this species of ill-health
too is spreading fast among our citizenry. It is also caused by
bad eating habits, such as, the habitual intake of junk food.
Likewise, the proliferation of mental ill-health should have
us worried. As in the case of cancer, we are informed that one
in four persons are subject to depression and such like
debilitating ailments, and it should be clear that a vast amount
of work needs to be done by way of improving the health of the
public. As could be seen, physical and mental ill-health cannot
be discussed in isolation from the average quality of life of
Thus, advocating and adopting a wholesome lifestyle becomes
necessary in the battle to ward off ill- health and unhappiness.